By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
I enjoy the newspaper. I follow local stories as best I can. Human interest and issues pieces have been at the top of my list for years and still are. There is also place for political reporting, humour, cops and crooks and more.
I’ve compiled a list of 10 stories from 2014 or ongoing stories that caught my eye for one reason or another. I’m not saying they are the biggest or best stories of the year, though in a couple of cases they could be. They’re my must reads. This is just opinion – mine:
The multi-month series in The Tribune, St. Catharines Standard and Niagara Falls Review reporting on poverty in Niagara – as never before. It’s an eye-opener, a heartbreaker and a conscience tweaker all at the same time. The good news is: this well-planned project is still unfolding, with work continuing, because this multi-layered social problem is still with us and will be for a long, long time, sad to say. The writing was top notch and the stories shared by the people who live them were engrossing. All in all, and by all involved, a job superbly done.
The marriage proposal story involving Tribune reporter Mary Ann Firth and boyfriend Ryan St. Denis. Everyone loves a good love story and this one is at the top of my list. Hollywood couldn’t have done it better! And who would be cast to play the parts? I’ll mull that over with my next cup of mulled wine. What a surprise it must have been in Chippawa Park when our ace reporter found out the whole story – then had a story to write and file for deadline! What a storyline, what a plot, what an ending! Best wishes to the now-engaged and soon to be wed Welland couple.
Let the headline tell it: The Long Goodbye of Jack and Karen. Through work, I knew Jack when he was in the local legal aid office, helping folks in need of whatever kind of assistance, though mostly legal of course; and when he was a parishioner at St. Kevin, Welland. The feature in the Tribune is one of the most compelling reads about Alzheimer’s and the sadness, pain, lessons and longing it can bring to our lives. Karen’s own piece, I Miss What We Once Had, with which the reporter Cheryl Clock’s feature closes, tugs at the heart strings, as does this unforgettable story.
From political nobody to political somebody. Alan Caslin was re-elected to regional council in the October municipal election as one of the St. Catharines councillors. He then became a kind of last-minute candidate for chair of Niagara Regional Council and ended up the winner. Wow, a coup d’etat by surprise! Congratulations, Mr. Chairman.
A Welland site was among two approved by Niagara Regional Council for new Provincial Offences Act Program facilities. They will replace current operations in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Welland and Fort Erie. The Welland property , purchased from District School Board of Niagara, is the former Empire School site on Duncan St. The other is in St. Catharines. It’s a good break for Welland, which could have lost existing court services now located in the downtown area near Civic Square. We need to keep all government infrastructure we have right here in Welland and not see an exodus to other places, most notably Niagara Falls and St. Catharines which seem to be, in some eyes, the centre of the regional universe. According to a press release issued by Niagara Region, construction of the new courthouses is scheduled to start in the spring of 2015 and will be self-funded through court revenues.
Port Colborne’s David topples a Goliath, again. This was one of the more interesting races in the October municipal election, pitting Port Colborne mayor Vance Badawey, who declined to seek re-election, against Port’s sole elected regional councillor David Barrick. But the incumbent, rookie councillor was too popular with voters and defeated his seasoned challenger. Four years prior, city councillor Barrick toppled another Port political Goliath, Bob Saracino, to claim the regional seat. More recently, he was one of three regional councillors elected by peers to the Niagara Police Services Board. Is his political star on the ascendancy? Over the next four years, Barrick is one to watch.
Feisty Wellanders just won’t give up the fight to save our local hospital. Like the Energizer bunny, they keep going and going, whether it be to political rallies at Queen’s Park or public meetings in the Rose City, refusing to hang up the gloves. I like reading about their spunk! Theirs is a titanic challenge to say the least and unfortunately, we are inclined to believe the ending is not a happy one for those who fight to keep hospital services in Welland. Still, they deserve credit for refusing to roll over.
Another year goes by in the unsolved homicide of Wellander John Horvath. This cold case is “refreshed” by local media almost every year, and rightly so. Somewhere out there a killer lurks – unless he happened to come to his own demise in the years that have gone by. If not, maybe a slip of the tongue – his or someone else’s – will help solve this crime. The Niagara Region Police Service provides this summary on its Cold Case postings: John Horvath was found murdered in his Norway Avenue residence in Welland, in early January 1999. A rear door at the residence had been forced and he had been beaten. It is believed he had interrupted a break-in at his home. Mr. Horvath was in his mid-70s and lived alone. He was a former shop teacher, retired from E.L. Crossley Secondary School. If you have info, you can contact: Homicide Unit, 905-688-4111 ext 4200; Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-8477
Welland’s Main Street bridge was closed for several months in 2014 for some repairs and a spiffy looking paint job. This is a big story in the city regardless how many times the closing of the bridge has happened. It’s big because the bridge is iconic to some, the work causes considerable disruption to lives and businesses and it’s inevitable that someone sooner or later questions why money is being spent on an old bridge and why a new one isn’t being built to replace it. Next up: decorative lighting for our towering landmark. Will it get done in 2015?
The International Flatwater Centre may be loved by out of towners who come here to compete in water sport events but locally, it just is not appreciated for what it is, and what it could become – that’s the on-going story when it comes to this sporting venue. Why all the antagonism? It played host to numerous events during 2014 and will welcome some of the Pan Am Games water events in the summer of 2015. It should be regarded as a jewel in Welland’s sports and recreation portfolio, not a punching bag. Maybe the tide will start turning in its favour in 2015.
(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. My View is a recurring feature.)